Think Cultural Health News

Advancing Health Equity at Every Point of Contact

May 2015

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Welcome to the May 2015 edition of Think Cultural Health News! Last month, we celebrated National Minority Health Month by commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health, published in 1985 under the leadership of Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret Heckler. Keep reading to learn more about the Heckler Report, the past 30 years’ efforts toward eliminating health disparities, and the current state of health disparities. Thank you for your continued dedication to advancing health equity!

The Heckler Report: 30 Years of Advancing Health Equity

The Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health, also known as the Heckler Report, highlighted the inequities in access and quality of care for individuals from diverse racial and ethnic minority populations. The report marked the first convening of a group of health experts by the U.S. government to study racial and ethnic minority health.

The Heckler Report pointed out conditions that accounted for 60,000 excess deaths each year among minority populations. It cited a pressing need for scientific research to address striking but previously unrecognized disparities in population health.

The Secretary for Health and Human Services, Sylvia Burwell, published a blog post detailing the progress made since the report’s publication, as well as the goals that are yet to be accomplished. Click here to read the blog post.

The Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health, J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, also published a blog post reflecting on the Heckler Report’s legacy and HHS’ current efforts to eliminate disparities. Click here to read the blog post.

On April 27, the Office of Minority Health hosted a Health Equity Summit to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Heckler Report. The summit featured remarks by Secretary Burwell; Deputy Assistant Secretary J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE; former Secretaries Margaret Heckler and Louis W. Sullivan; former Surgeon General David Satcher; and other key figures in the quest for health equity.

At Think Cultural Health, we are committed to the Heckler Report’s vision of advancing health equity at every point of contact. To read about the milestones and activities related to health equity over the past 30 years, visit our Health Equity Timeline.

Recent Disparities Data Underscores Need for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services

Key findings from several recent reports from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services highlight the persistent health and health care disparities faced by our nation’s diverse communities.

The 2014 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report, published in April by the HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, concluded that “disparities remained prevalent across a broad spectrum of quality measures.” For example, the study found that:

  • People in poor households generally experienced less access and poorer quality.
  • Blacks received worse care than Whites for about one-third of quality measures.
  • States in the South Atlantic, West South Central, and Mountain census divisions tended to have fewer racial/ethnic disparities while states in the Middle Atlantic, West North Central, and Pacific census divisions tended to have more disparities.
Click here to see the report.

The Women of Color Health Data Book, published in April by the HHS National Institutes of Health, reports on disparities such as:

  • The age-adjusted prevalence of diagnosed diabetes mellitus among women is greatest among American Indians or Alaska Natives.
  • Cancer (or malignant neoplasms) is the leading cause of death for Hispanic, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Asian and Pacific Islander women.
  • In 2010, Black women accounted for 64 percent of new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections reported among women, despite comprising 13 percent of the female population in the United States at that time.
Click here to see the Data Book.

In May, the HHS Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued Vital Signs: Leading Causes of Death, Prevalence of Diseases and Risk Factors, and Use of Health Services Among Hispanics in the United States — 2009–2013. It is the first national study on Hispanic health risks and leading causes of death in the United States. Its findings include:

  • Hispanics have lower deaths than Whites from most of the 10 leading causes of death with three exceptions—more deaths from diabetes and chronic liver disease, and similar numbers of deaths from kidney diseases.
  • Health risk can vary by Hispanic subgroup. For example, 66% more Puerto Ricans smoke than Mexicans.
  • Hispanics are almost 3 times as likely to be uninsured as Whites.

Click here to see the study in English.

Haga clic aquí para ver el estudio en español.

These disparities data underscore the need for culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS) in health care. CLAS can help organizations and providers better consider an individual’s cultural background and communicate more effectively with individuals, which can improve health outcomes.

What Are We Up To?

On June 17, we will be presenting on Think Cultural Health and the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health and Health Care at the 9th Annual Multicultural Training Conference, sponsored by the Mental Health Cultural Competency Training Center (MHCCC), a program of Family Service Association in Southern New Jersey. Click here for more information.

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